Hill Democrats seek allies for Obama climate push

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A pair of Democrats on Capitol Hill are joining President Obama’s call to put real political muscle into the fight to address climate change and vowed to form a bipartisan task force — but they haven’t found any Republican takers yet.

Rep. Henry Waxman, California Democrat, and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Rhode Island Democrat, said Thursday they are trying to enlist House and Senate members who want to work to curb carbon emissions, and they said they think they have a new window of opportunity thanks to destructive weather events such as Superstorm Sandy, which some analysts blamed on global warming.

“The time for action is now,” Mr. Waxman told reporters in announcing the new task force.

Mr. Obama unexpectedly made climate change a focal point of his inaugural address on Monday, declaring that failure to act on the issue would “betray our children and future generations.”

But Mr. Obama has not outlined specifics on what he plans to do. His spokesman said Wednesday the president will not pursue a tax on carbon emissions, but will seek stricter carbon-pollution regulations through the Environmental Protection Agency.

Mr. Waxman and Mr. Whitehouse said GOP lawmakers face a choice — they can work on legislation, or leave it up to the administration to act.

Still, no Republicans have signed on yet, the two Democrats said.

“We just started, we’re open for business and we welcome them aboard,” Mr. Waxman said.

Mr. Whitehouse said his fellow lawmakers should “wake up” to changing attitudes toward climate change. Insurers are backing climate reforms to keep their liabilities in check, he said, and the clean-energy sector is outperforming oil and gas when it comes to creating jobs.

“I think what we see in Washington is a hold on Congress by politics, lobbyists and fund raising from a very small sector of the economy, and I think as the costs to other sectors of the economy become more apparent, they’ll become more and more motivated” to support legislation, he said.

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